Sudden breast refusal and nursing strikes
- 0-1 Years
- Feeding and eating
Breast refusal is the general term used for when your baby is refusing to be fed by your breast. A ‘nursing strike’ is when a baby who has been breastfeeding suddenly stops. Both breast refusal and nursing strikes can be very upsetting and stressful.
Sudden refusal or nursing strike
A nursing strike is when a baby who has been breastfeeding consistently suddenly stops. It is not the same as weaning. Nursing strikes usually last between 2 to 4 days, however they can last longer.
There are several reasons why your baby may suddenly start to refuse your breast:
- they are unwell (tummy ache, earache, oral thrush etc.)
- too little milk
- too much milk, your baby may be struggling with the flow of milk
- changes to personal hygiene products (deodorant, soap, perfume etc.) makes you smell different
- major changes to their routine
What to do during a sudden refusal or nursing strike
When your baby is having a nursing strike, you will need to:
Tips and tricks for when your baby suddenly refuses your breast
It can be very stressful when your baby suddenly refuses your breast. It is important that you stay calm during this time.
Try to find out what is bothering your baby. This can help you find a solution or put together a plan to encourage your baby to breastfeed.
Offer your baby your breast when they are sleepy. Some babies will feed when they are sleepy or asleep. This could be helpful for a baby who is uninterested in feeding when awake.
Carry your baby in a sling. If your baby isn’t breastfeeding yet, carrying them in a sling is a great way to help them get comfortable being near the breast.
Feed your baby in different locations. You could change rooms to feed them, sit in the car or walk around. This may encourage your baby to feed.
Start expressing milk before offering your breast. This will start the flow of milk and gives your baby an immediate reward. You can also offer your baby something to suck before offering to nurse so that they’re ready to feed.
If your baby has a sore mouth, you can giving them frozen expressed milk in a clean cloth or muslin. The clean cloth or muslin will prevent injury to your baby's mouth. The frozen expressed milk can help numb and cool their mouths before feeding. This can be especially useful for teething babies.
Last reviewed: 1 November, 2023